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Saudi-Iranian Row Unlikely to End in Direct War

Iraqi security forces and allied Sunni tribal fighters display weapons used by Islamic State militants to attack their city in Haditha, 240 kilometers (150 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

The diplomatic stand-off between Iran and Saudi Arabia began Saturday, when the kingdom executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges – the largest mass execution it has carried out since 1980.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are respectively the main Shiite and Sunni powers in the Middle East. Sudan and Bahrain, a tiny Sunni-led monarchy with a majority Shiite population, broke off ties with Iran hours after Saudi Arabia, while the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait downgraded theirs.

In his statement, Aziz maintained that Pakistan will continue to play its role to ease tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and it advocates unity among the Muslim countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jaberi Ansari has said his country is committed to protecting diplomatic missions and reiterated that no Saudi diplomats were harmed – or even present – during this weekend’s attack.

“We have treated these actions with magnanimity and nobleness but unfortunately our neighbour, Saudi Arabia, did not respond to it properly”, he said.

Expressing “deep concern” over the attacks, the council “called on the Iranian authorities to protect diplomatic and consular property and personnel and to respect fully their global obligations in this regard”.

On Tuesday, Kuwait announced the recalling of its ambassador in a statement carried on the state-run Kuwait News Agency.

Since Saudi Arabia severed ties to Iran, a host of its allies have cut or reduced their ties as well. Saudis knew that Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s death would reinforce resentment in the monarchy’s Shiite community, while Iran should have thought better of warning Riyadh against the execution.

Tensions between Hezbollah and Bahrain continued through 2015 with the Gulf Cooperation Council condemning in January 2015 Nasrallah remarks on the country as “incitement to violence and discord”.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a regional struggle that has seen them back opposing sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was en route to Riyadh on Monday with plans to later visit Tehran.

“The Saudi government, in order to cover up its crime of beheading a religious leader, has resorted to a odd measure of severing its ties with the Islamic republic”, Rouhani told the Danish foreign minister, Kristian Jensen, who was on a visit to Tehran.

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